1957 Flu Pandemic
Storyteller: Roxana Schultz
My mother, Eleonora, was born in 1913 and does not remember that she or anyone in her family got sick during the 1918 Pandemic. However, she did become extremely ill with the 1957 pandemic flu. I was 6 years old in 1957. I lived with my family in Chicago, Illinois. I was in the first grade and I don′t remember anything about being sick myself or missing school. As far as I know, my father, T. Walter Schultz, continued to go to work and didn′t get sick, either.
During my mother′s illness, everyone was talking in whispers. I was allowed to carry soup to her on a tray and to put a cold washcloth on her forehead. I remember my father telling me that my mother was very, very sick and she might not get better. The doctor would come to visit and tell my father that we needed to keep her fever down and get her to drink liquids and eat if possible.
My mother, who is still alive today, says she doesn′t remember very much about her illness then, except that she was so sick she couldn′t get out of bed and that my Aunt Irene Herrmann (wife of Raymond Herrmann, Eleonora′s brother) would come and take me to school and bring me home again. She also remembers Irene making her whipped Jello® to eat. Mom remembers how she thought she heard voices and people laughing and talking, but my father told her there was no one there. They later thought the cuckoo clock must be what she thought was laughing.
After she recovered, my mother met with my teacher who told her that I had had a very difficult time in school during her illness and I wasn′t concentrating or paying attention. When the teacher asked me what was wrong, I had told her I was afraid my mother was going to die.
After 1957, my mother always seemed to get the flu (including the 1968 pandemic flu). My father and I would also come down with the flu, but we never did get as sick as my mother did. Growing up I never heard of “flu shots” and we did not start getting them until recent years. I first recall hearing public warnings telling people to be vaccinated against the flu during the 1976 swine flu event.